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It’s official: NCAA expands basketball tournament to 68 teams

The road to the Final Four will have a new look next season.

On Thursday, the NCAA’s board of directors approved expansion from 65 to 68 teams and endorsed a proposal to add three more opening-round games to the schedule. It’s only the second time in a quarter-century that the NCAA has increased the number of teams competing for the men’s national championship.

Now it’s time to start mapping out the details, which could include putting at-large teams in the early games.

“The [men’s basketball] committee will have to study any variety of options and certainly the notion of looking at options involving the last at-large teams in would be one possible option,” NCAA Vice President Greg Shaheen said.

Tyreke Evans capped his first year for the Sacramento Kings by beating out Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings for the rookie of the year award.

Evans became the fourth rookie ever to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James in an exclusive club.

He led all rookies in scoring at 20.1 points per game, was second in assists at 5.8 per game and fifth in rebounds at 5.3.

Tennis:

Nadal advances in Rome

Rafael Nadal improved his record at the Rome Masters to 24-1 with a methodical 6-3, 6-2 win against 39th-ranked Victor Hanescu.

He will next face Stanislas Wawrinka, the 2008 runner-up, who beat Robin Soderling, 6-3, 6-2.

Second-ranked Novak Djokovic defeated Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4, 6-4, and will meet Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. Verdasco edged Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

David Ferrer stopped Andy Murray, 6-3, 6-4.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ernests Gulbis also advanced.

Justine Henin outlasted Belgian teammate Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3, 7-5, to advance to the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix.

Dinara Safina, playing her first match since retiring at the Australian Open because of a lower-back injury, beat Agnes Szavay to make the final eight.

In other matches, Samantha Stosur beat Alexandra Dulgheru and Jelena Jankovic defeated Tsvetana Pironkova.

ETC.

Arizona State at UCLA for baseball showdown

UCLA and Arizona State, both ranked in the top five of most national college baseball polls, will open a three-game Pacific 10 Conference series Friday at 6 p.m. at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium. Additional seating has been moved to the field to accommodate expected capacity crowds of more than 2,000 for each game. Saturday’s will start at 2 p.m., Sunday’s at 1 p.m.

Arizona State leads the Pac-10 with a record of 35-5, 11-4 in conference games. UCLA is 30-7, 7-5 in the Pac-10. Both teams went more than a month before experiencing their first losses. UCLA opened 22-0 and Arizona State 24-0 before both lost against conference opponents on April 2.

UCLA’s weekend starters — Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen — are a combined 18-4 and are first, second and fourth in the conference in strikeouts. Arizona State has a .350 team batting average and the Sun Devils’ weekend starters — Seth Blair, Merrill Kelly and Jake Borup — have a combined record of 23-1.

— Mike Hiserman

Ai Miyazato shot 10-under 63 — her career-best score against par — to take a two-stroke, first-round lead in the Tres Marias Championship over Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa, who will retire after this tournament, and Michelle Wie carded 66s.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will have to settle their simmering rivalry at the ballot box instead of on the ice. The Pittsburgh Penguins star and his Washington Capitals counterpart joined Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks as finalists for the Hart Trophy given to the league’s most valuable player. The winner will be announced June 23.

Kings defensemen Matt Greene and Jack Johnson were named to the U.S. team for the 2010 IIHF World Championship, scheduled for May 7-23 in Germany.

Kevin Kolb, recently promoted to No. 1 quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles in place of Donovan McNabb, agreed to a one-year contract extension through the 2011 season. He will receive a reported $12.26 million guaranteed over the next two years.

Seahawks four-time All-Pro Walter Jones has retired at 36 after 13 years in which he was on the NFL’s top left tackles.

Fulham and Atletico Madrid will contest soccer’s first Europa League final.

Fulham came from behind for a 2-1 semifinal victory over Hamburg and, although Atletico lost 2-1 after extra time at Anfield, the 2-2 aggregate meant that the Spanish team advanced on away goals to the May 12 final.


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